Peeling Away the Layers aka Editing

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Two Saturdays ago, I went to the market for the first time in more than a year. The sights and sounds were almost overwhelming.  Eye-catching displays of vegetables and ground provision stretched in every direction. I saw everything from creamy-hued broad beans and turnips to flame coloured carrots and tomatoes.  People milled around buying, selling and hawking goods. 

Then there were the heaps of refuse. Cabbage and lettuce leaves rested in piles, stripped down to display fresher insides. Dried banana leaves, pressed into service as protective layers between delicate fruits, lay cast aside. The precious cargo had arrived safely at market and were now displayed on stalls, in baskets and boxes.


As I passed piles of trash, it occurred to me that inspiration really can be found anywhere. The rubbish reminded me of all the layers we strip away when we get to the editing stage of a book.  All the extra words, phrases and fleshy flabby parts of the story are stripped away.  Pushy characters that jump the line, yelling ‘Me! Me!’ can lead to dead-end plot lines. They are rooted out at this point, leaving only integral story material.  

On the hundredth read, when every bit most of the excess material is history, that’s the time  the story begins to look as ripe and ready as the mangoes below.

Source

If you’re wondering why I’ve said ‘most’ above instead of ‘every bit’, it’s because I read my published work and still find places where more words could have been deleted or reworked. This week I’ll have another whirl at Hardware which is back in my hands for the second clean up. Let’s hope I catch all the fatty trimmings.

What do you have on your plate this week? Any thoughts on how to peel away the dross to get to the good stuff?

28 comments:

  1. I'm still trying to write the rough draft, never mind start the editing phase. I've hit writer's block eight miles thick.

    I've had to teach myself to be ruthless when I edit. I might like that phrase a lot, but if it does nothing for my characters or story, out it goes. It hurts, but it has to be done.

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  2. I always find places to tighten/fix no matter how many times the CP and I review my work. Ugh. It never ends!

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  3. I love this analogy. Would woulda thunk you'd find inspiration and a cool analogy for the writing process at the market? I'm revising and drafting this week, plus juggling some other projects. Good luck with your 2nd clean up of Hardware. I hope that peeling the dross is as easy as peeling potatoes!

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  4. I can relate to 'alleged author's' comment. I'm perpetually finding places I can trim and fix and tweak. lol. Great post.

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  5. Marlena, I hope the writer’s block shifts soon. Keep going though, you’ll get there. Good attitude on editing. I’m still learning how to get rid of the frilly stuff that does nothing to enhance my writing.

    AA, yes, like excess weight, the flab never quite disappears.

    Lyn, it kinda surprised me too when the idea came to me. Good luck to you too on the editing and drafting.

    Thanks, Lynda. Editing can be a writer’s curse. The tweaking never ends.

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  6. During revisions I strip away everything that is not the story. It hurts 'cause some of the stuff I thought were written well, but it just doesn't enhance the story.

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  7. Editing and revising can go on and on. There will always be a word here, a phrasing there, that could be changed or tweaked. Knowing when to say, "It is finished," is the hardest part.

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  8. So true! We should just be showing the reader the best fruit parts. Peel that banana skin back to show just the juicy, important piece.

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  9. This is such a great analogy. I feel so terrible to be stripping away someone's work at the moment. She asked me to add in my two pennies as a CP and it feels just terrible. I can't imagine what it must be like for the writer. Luckily the story/idea itself is a fabulous one.

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  10. It's very difficult, I think, to get it all right. Writing pours out of us and then we have to weed through our words determining what needs to stay and what needs to go (ouch).

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  11. Cool post. I really liked all the descriptive detail:)

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  12. Very interesting post. I love finding inspiration in strange places but to peel away the layers and find what I need isn't always so easy.

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  13. I love your analogy of excess verbiage to smelly garbage. :)

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  14. Love your analogy and new blog look! Without deadlines, I think most authors would edit/revise endlessly, LOL.

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  15. Elizabeth, eventually we all have to learn how to do without the stuff we’d love to have in our books that really isn’t earth-shatteringly important to the plot.

    Bish, I so agree with you. It’s usually with a heavy heart that I stop fiddling with a manuscript.

    Clarissa, it would save me countless hours if I could get to this point the first time I try. Also editing is writing.

    Wendy, you get over it eventually. I know I do. As long as what I’m getting is constructive criticism then I’m wide open.
    Teresa, it can be like killing children we’ve given birth to, but in the same way we have to teach them respect and how to get along with others, so too we have to pare down our words to get them to fit into what is acceptable in the world of publishing.

    Thanks, Mark, glad you enjoyed the visit.

    Regina, I agree that getting down to the important stuff is always a challenge.

    Michelle, we writers can and do get words to work for us however we want. 

    Rula, thanks! You’re so right.

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  16. I hear you. I really think that editing is an ongoing process. I'm a big believer in excellence, and as long as a MS remains on my laptop, I'll tweak it anyway I can to make it better.

    This week? HOPEFULLY writing 4 to five chapters. Would be really chuffed to accomplish that. It's a lot of words.

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  17. Oh, really like the new look of your blog!

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  18. Thanks DUO, I'm loving the new look too. Wishing you luck on getting those chapters written.

    At best, I figure I can probably get one chapter written. I think my mojo went on sabbatical ages ago. Good think I have so much stuff to edit.

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  19. Interestingly, rotting garbage showed up in my writing just a few days ago. Yes, inspiration is everywhere. We just need to keep an open, creative mind to see it all.

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  20. So true about inspiration being everywhere. My baby goes to the editor next month, and I'll be back in the trenches with it after that. Now I'm querying an older one and plotting a new one. No thoughts at all other than keep at it.

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  21. Great analogy!

    I'm also digging through the trash (revising) when I'm not at university.

    :-)

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  22. Neat analogy, and you've made me crave those mangos. :)

    Revisions aren't fun, but writers are compelled to make the manuscript better each time it's read. Years ago, when I had soooo much still to learn, I remember hearing about those famous published authors who literally went through their own best sellers with a red pen and I couldn't understand why; now I totally get their drive for perfection.

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  23. Lydia, an open mind and creative outlook really are key.

    Carol, yes, sometimes there's nothing for it but to put one foot in front of the other. Editing one of mine now too. Trying to get to the end in the not-too-distant future.

    Misha, good luck with that.

    Tine, with this last manuscript I'm reading through, I'm at the point where I almost don't care, however, I don't let 'almost' get the better of me, particularly because this novel was written a while back. I'm reminding myself that this is the last chance I'll get to change anything before it's engraved in stone.

    And yes, I catch myself reading my work and thinking how I could have phrased a sentence differently (read that as much better).

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  24. What a fantastic analogy. And I hear you - I still see words I could have cut when I look at my published work!

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  25. Thanks for dropping in, Talli. Seems we all have chronic editing sickness.

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  26. I like the analogy!

    This week? Rewrites, and I plan to start a new project August 1st; I've decided to dive into a New Shiny that I've been thinking about for a while.

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  27. TGE, I'm envious. Too many things undone to embark on anything new. Enjoy!

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  28. I love revising--especially the peeling away and cutting parts because trimming can make such a wonderful difference in the story.

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